Search Marketing

Recovering from Google Panda

A handful of companies that I know were hurt by the algorithm change named Panda. Panda was focused and aimed at targeted content farms but has impacted many businesses. One friend of mine had to layoff his first employee due to their loss in ranking on a professional directory service that led the rankings for about a decade. Today, we paused a relationship with one of our favorite clients. Their huge loss in advertising revenue had to be dealt with (we’ll still continue to support them since I have no doubt their traffic will return).

I met with the client today and the room was notably somber. They’re under a lot of pressure to continue to grow revenue, so a setback like this is huge. Luckily, their product is quite engaging, so I’ve recommended they take a hard look at gamification to take their ravenous fans and create an atmosphere where they’re continuously rewarded and recognized for utilizing the service they provide.

On the search engine optimization side, the talk was a bit tougher. When Google liked content farms, we pushed the infrastructure to publish content horizontally. A specific topic in their arsenal could have 22,000 pages under it – and we we pushed them all. The site was enormous, but leveraged Google appropriately – skyrocketing traffic and revenue.

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Prior to Panda (Google is still continuing to tweak), it was easy to publish new content and have that content rank well. It seemed that good ranking on some terms influenced your ability to publish content and get ranked on subsequent keywords – even if they weren’t too relevant. Not anymore.

After Panda, the algorithm appeared to be put in reverse. Any pages that existed on the site that didn’t rank or drive traffic actually became a huge weight that dragged down the entire site. For 4 months straight we’ve watched the site continue to drop – not just in ranking, but more drastically on keywords that provided the most search volumes. Not good.

So what do companies hurt by the Google Panda algorithm do next?

  1. Get rid of pages that suck. Poor pages with little value, poor content, low impact and poor ranking are pulling down the great pages on your site. Get rid of them now.
  2. If you have a horizontal content farm… meaning there is not a lot of steps navigating between your home page and the lowest page on your site… rethink your hierarchy. Instead of publishing your great content wide into long-tail topics… collapse it into smaller silos of information. Example: If I have a site on marketing and the long-tail is how to rank on Google… instead of having a single page on how to rank on google, I should probably have a topical page on Marketing and Google that combines more of the content into an intelligent subgroup.
  3. Continue promoting the great pages and good ranking you do have. To withstand the weight of poor performing pages, you need to continue to promote the pages within your site that are doing well – just to sustain their ranking.
  4. Execute all other aspects of SEO flawlessly – including robots.txt, sitemaps.xml, pinging, page construction, etc. There’s no longer any margin for error or sloppiness with your content farm. Stop making excuses and fix your site. Fix the quality, the representation, the speed… everything about it.

Content farms aren’t a bad thing (Google still loves Wikipedia). Running a site that takes advantage of search engines and presents lots of great, relevant content isn’t a bad thing. Consumers appreciate good content (even if Panda ignores it). Running a content farm got more difficult since Panda, though, because now the volume of cotent you are producing is met with much more negative assumptions on what you’re trying to achieve.

Enlisting social media for amplification and promotion, as well as implementing other user engagement strategies like email, nurturing and gamification, can take a large volume of visitors and make up your gaps by turning them into repeat visitors.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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    1. It’s definitely a balance, Atul. One perfect post may sell a few things… but a hundred great posts will sell much more. Shoving tons of crappy content has always brought those sites visitors – but I doubt it ever really turned into the cash it could have.

  1. You also have to remember that google is now rewarding sites that are ranked highest in stickiness factor, that’s why gaming sites are now benefiting in a huge way.

  2. This was an excellent article. My site is a huge huge forums but got hit pretty hard, drop 90% and still dropping… I still debating if i want to try something else altogether. Thanks

  3. Bounce rate measures the activities of the reader
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  4. Great Article, I guess with Panda, Google is trying to eliminate any SEO’s who migh help get good rankings without using Adwords. I personally think they took it a little to far, I guess they are trying to squeeze every penny out of people on the internet. They want to make it all to chance.

  5. In all honesty, after taking a look at your site, I think I would work on implementing a known content management system and importing your content. I think you could be suffering because of so many links on the page.

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